"I have a notion that gamblers are as happy as most people, being always excited; women, wine, fame, the table, even ambition, sate now and then, but every turn of the card and cast of the dice keeps the gambler alive.".- Lord Byron.
The starting lineups have been set. The fantasy football teams have been drafted. The money has found its way back into the offshore gaming accounts, and the Week 1 lines are posted and ripe for the picking. The sporting public has been going through rehab and withdrawal for seven months since the Super Bowl, but it is about to again submerge itself in a wonderful orgy of drinking, violence, and gambling that will last the next 21 weeks.
The season kicks off Thursday night when the Oakland Raiders travel to New England to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. That evening will feature the type of showmanship, self-importance, and spectacle that we've come to expect from Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his massive public relations machine.But don't be distracted. We have work to do this season - making all of us some money by finding and exploiting the weaknesses in the bookmaking industry.
No matter who you go through - an online sports book, that fifth-year sophomore in the dorm next to yours or even that office picks pool that gets up to one or two hundred dollars - Doc's Sports is the place for you to find the exclusive information that can be the difference between picking up that new surround sound system for your living room or having to pawn that watch that Mom bought you last Christmas.Looking at the lines for opening weekend, it's apparent that the books are just as skittish as the rest of us when it comes to predicting the performance of most NFL teams. Most of the lines are chalk, with the favorites from the end of last season listed as the favorites now. There are no real big numbers (minus 8 in the New England game was the largest). I'm going to take it slow this weekend, sitting back and enjoying the blissful beginning to another fall football season. If you decide to throw around a few bills, here are a few things to remember for Week 1:.
1) Forget about last year. That's worth repeating. FORGET ABOUT LAST YEAR! All of the preseason hype, predictions and the opening week lines are based around how teams performed last year. That's the point of origin and any adjustments to that are based on limited conjecture. Remember, part of the formula for determining a line is the public's perception about teams.
People will form their opinions based on their most recent recollection of these clubs (last year's playoffs). The same 12 teams that made the postseason last year aren't going to make it this season. Conversely, at least one team that had 4,5, or 6 wins last year is going to be playing in the second week of January.
It happens every year, so don't try to fight it.2) Bet conservatively in Week 1. I know you're excited. We all are. But you don't want to put yourself in a hole early because you'll be playing from behind the whole season.
Be patient. Make a few small bets - maybe half the size of what you would wager during the season - and keep a list of bets that you would have made. After the weekend, check your list of bets against what actually happens. If you would have done well, then you have a good read on the teams and are set for Week 2.
If not, keep the same conservative approach.3)Pay attention to the injury report. This is always important, but you'd be amazed how many people assume that in Week 1 all the players are healthy and ready to go. That couldn't be less true. Pulled hamstrings, lingering soreness and other ailments to key players will have just as big an impact in the opening games as they would later in the year. A perfect example is the Tennessee at Pittsburgh (minus 7) game this weekend.
Pittsburgh is the better team, but they're without Duce Staley, Jerome Bettis, and Joey Porter. On the flip side, the Titans roster is littered with talented but injury-prone guys (Kris Brown, Steve McNair, and Tyrone Calico) who are 100 percent at the moment, but probably won't be for the whole year. The result is a slightly different competition level this weekend than it would be if the game were played in November.4)Special teams can win games early.
For whatever reason, it takes a few weeks for most organizations to get their special teams in order. Don't be surprised to see more big plays than usual in the first few weeks. This also yields an extra advantage to squads with good special teams.
Some clubs with the best: Buffalo, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago and Denver. Some with the worst: St. Louis, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Seattle.Now that we have some of the basics covered, let's take a look at the most compelling games in this weekend's slate:.
Oakland at New England (-8), Thursday at 8 p.m..
Now it's time to see just what Rasta Randy Moss brings to the Raiders. Despite the addition of the controversial wideout, oddsmakers don't expect too much out of Oakland this season. Besides Randy, the Raiders will also trot out their new 4-3 defense, which should be a huge upgrade. New England is a heavy favorite (-8) but will be fielding a different team than the one that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy last February.
However, with Belichick, Brady, and Dillon still in the fold it should hardly matter, right? Oh, and the over/under on "Tuck Rule" mentions is 2.5.New York Jets at Kansas City (-3), Sunday at 1 p.m..The Jets are a sheik pick to unseat the aforementioned Patriots this season.
However, questions still abound in New Jersey - like how will Chad Pennington's shoulder hold up? Also, the Jets defense is still unsettled. John Abraham has just recently rejoined the team, and his conditioning will be a concern. Ty Law will start this weekend but is still gimpy, and Dwayne Robertson is playing with an injured hand. The Chiefs defense, on the other hand, will be a reason to watch this game. I'm curious as to how the new additions - Kendrell Bell, Derrick Johnson, Patrick Surtain and Sammy Knight - will perform.Seattle at Jacksonville (-3), Sunday at 1 p.
m..By Week 10 of last season the best bet in the NFL was a middle-of-the-road AFC team against any NFC team.
By that rationale this game would be an easy cleanup for the Jaguars. I know it's only one week, but this game will at least be an early indicator of whether that corollary still holds true (Dallas at San Diego is another such game in Week 1). Seattle was a dreamy pick for the Super Bowl last season and still has talent.
They've been a bad road team the past two seasons, and I think that "experts" are severely underestimating how good this Jacksonville team is. This will also be the first time anyone sees how healthy Fred Taylor is. He is the key to the Jags season.Indianapolis (-3) at Baltimore, Sunday at 8:30 p.
m..Oh, this one has it all. This game is a rematch of a key game from last season's stretch run. Indianapolis dominated that contest (20-10) and Baltimore ended up missing the playoffs by one game.
This season, both the Colts (5/1) and the Ravens (14/1) are two of the top six favorites to win Super Bowl XL. I know that the preseason means less than the drunken promises I make to college girls, but the Colts were 0-5 and didn't really look good at any point. This will also be fans' first opportunity to see new Colts defensive lineman Corey Simon in his new uniform. Deion Sanders (hamstring) and Samari Rolle (knee) are both questionable. Jamal Lewis came out and voiced serious displeasure with Baltimore management because he hasn't been given a contract extension.
He contests that the Ravens played a part in his decision to accept jail time.Philadelphia (-2) at Atlanta, Monday at 9 p.m..
A juicy beginning to the Monday Night Football lineup. This game may be a rematch of the 2004 NFC Championship Game, but it may as well be the Super Bowl for the Falcons. Somehow, the feeling in Atlanta is that a win here could somehow avenge the savage beating they took in Philly last January. The Eagles, on the other hand, are just trying to prove that the Owens vs.
Everybody feud has run its course and that the bad blood really won't spill over into the regular season. I was surprised to see Atlanta as the home dog, especially given the troubles that Philly has endured in the last month. However, the books are wise enough to know that despite the off-field distractions this is still a dangerous Eagles team that can erupt at any time.Some final, quick thoughts:.1) Eli Manning's elbow is reportedly fine, and he will be ready to go when the Giants host the Cardinals on Sunday. He better be.
He might not face a weaker secondary again this year.2) Tampa Bay will be starting Dan Buenning and Anthony Davis at left guard and left tackle, respectively, when they take on Minnesota. Neither of these guys has ever started an NFL game. I expect them to be totally dominated by the Vikings defensive line, which happens to be one of the best in the league.
3) Don't underestimate the serious emotional factor for the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and New Orleans Saints. The New Orleans situation is tragic and well documented, and no one can predict how they're going to come out and play against Carolina. Also, there will most assuredly be some type of poignant September 11 commemoration in D.C. and NYC.
Expect two lively crowds, and don't be surprised if those teams jump out early on their opponent.4) This is going to be the first opening week without Jerry Rice in over 20 years. Au revoir. And no matter what Terrell Owens and Randy moss think about themselves, neither are half the man or half the player that Rice was.
5) This Sunday, whether you're at a bar surrounded by scantily clad waitresses or on a couch somewhere enjoying your team on the high-def big screen, make sure you take some time to think about how fortunate your are. Especially compared to those lost souls down in the Bayou..Doc's Sports Handy Links:
Jeremy Martin archive
2005 NFL Preview page.Doc's Sports Handicapping Service 1-866-238-6696.Since 1971 Doc's Sports has been recognized as one of the leaders and most trusted names in sports handicapping information.
Visit Doc's website for free college and NFL picks and predictions as well as updated articles and free game matchup reports.
By: Robert Ferringo